With pickup sales continuing to skyrocket, despite the overall slowdown in the U.S. automotive market, General Motors said Thursday it will invest $24 million to boost production at the Fort Wayne, Indiana plant that produces two of its most profitable trucks.
The move will not only boost output of the full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models, but may also offer an opportunity for some of the workers displaced by the closure of two other GM assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio.
“The team here at Fort Wayne has done an outstanding job helping us satisfy customers throughout this launch,” GM CEO Mary Barra said during an announcement at the Fort Wayne plant which currently employs about 4,230 hourly workers.
The factory was updated little more than a year ago to handle the latest generation of the Silverado and Sierra trucks which debuted for the current model year.
(GMC tightens up premium segment with 2020 Sierra 1500. Click Here for the story.)
Both were finalists for the 2019 North American Truck of the Year, though they were bested by the Ram 1500 that was also all-new for 2019. That said, demand has skyrocketed since the new models rolled out, combined sales increasing 20% during the first quarter compared to the same three-month period last year.
“Our product ramp-up was very smooth and the quality has been exceptional,” CEO Barra said. “Crew cab sales have been very strong, and we are expanding customer choice with new models, more cab choices and innovative new powertrains.”
But with demand now outpacing supply, GM says it needs a further upgrade to the assembly line to permit it to further boost output. It is not saying, however, precisely how many more of the trucks it hopes to assemble at Fort Wayne once the project is completed.
(Click Here for more about how strong sales of pricey pickups helped GM beat earnings estimate.)
GM has invested $1.2 billion in the Indiana plant alone since 2015 as part of a broader push to update its truck line-up and boost production. In February, Barra helped pull the wraps off the new Chevy Silverado HD model at the automaker’s truck plant in Flint, Michigan, completing another major investment program.
Plans call for adding about 1,000 workers at the Flint factory. Many of those spots – as well as some of the jobs opening up in Fort Wayne – are being offered to workers displaced by the closure of assembly lines in Detroit and Lordstown, Ohio. GM has said that it already has found new assignments for about 1,350 of the roughly 2,800 hourly workers affected by those shutdowns. Some of the others are expected to opt for retirement, however, rather than reassignment. It is not clear if that will result in the automaker actually opening up for new hires.
Following the announcement about the Fort Wayne project, United Auto Workers Vice President and Director of the GM department Terry Dittes said in a statement, “General Motors investment will ensure job security and continued growth in manufacturing and the economy for UAW members in Indiana, their families and their community.”
(For a first look at the new GMC Sierra HD, Click Here.)
GM has also been expanding production of some of its SUV and CUV products to take advantage of the shift to light trucks from sedans and coupes. It said last November that it was dropping a half-dozen passenger car models as it closes the Ohio and Michigan assembly lines, as well as a third factory in Ontario.